Affected By Truth: Valuing What Matters Most

THE VALUE OF PERSPECTIVE

As I’ve gotten older (now in my early 30s), I’ve witnessed the value of what matters most to me change over time. What’s more, I’ve noticed what changed those values for me was the cost of loss during those times.

For instance, I remember distinctly how, for years during my adolescence, spirituality meant nothing to me at all; I had other interests that were far more important to me than the idea of an invisible God who allowed suffering to exist in my life (Notice the acute selfishness of my plight: My loss was, circumstantially, more significant to me than recognizing and acknowledging that I was not the only person suffering in the world!). That was my unapologetic perspective at a pubescent time when I was experiencing ineffable emotional pain and extreme loss. In hindsight, what actually shaped my personal concept of God was an amalgam of variables: the Catholic school I was a part of but didn’t feel received at, the music I listened to and embraced, which boundaries I did or didn’t have, the religious but not-so-spiritual people I was surrounded by—and my personal translation of all of those variables (and more) through a rigid, hurt, and docile mind and heart. It wasn’t until years later, after losing more of what I didn’t realize I had, that I began to value what it was that I did.

INTROSPECTION ON TRUTH

One valuable lesson I’ve learned through some experience and maturation is that with perspective comes Truth: the Truth of what matters most. I’ve learned what matters most sometimes isn’t what we think it is in the moment, and that what we think Truth is in the moment we’re in is based upon where our heart and spirit posture is.

What I want to explore in this article is how our Truth impacts the manner in which we live our lives, and how Truth changes the way we view our lives as a part of (or apart from) others’ journey in life together. I believe the Truth behind this matter can drastically influence how we live in every moment.

GOD’S GRACE LIFTS US UP—THE ENEMY’S LIES TEAR US DOWN

I identify myself as a Christian. While I believe in God’s grace through Christ, I understand—though I have a considerably hard time believingthat I am a masterpiece in His eyes through Jesus’s blood on the cross (Ephesians 2:10). As imperfect and flawed as I am, it requires consistently surrendering to God for humility to embrace and recognize I fail, constantly, to put Jesus first in my heart, mind, and decisions. One could easily condemn me for how frequently forgetful I am, or for how many areas I have yet to mature in, such as in my self-forgiveness, criticism, and working through frustrations. However, we are not the judge, and the Judge who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth has grace for the humble (James 4:6).

If God, the Judge of all, has grace on me even after all of my fallouts and misguided actions, what could man think of me that matters more? One valuable lesson as a Christian who is hyper-aware of his shortcomings is to understand that the most powerful Being in existence wants what is best for me in spite of my sin, wrongdoings, and failures. For me, that message—that Truth—is empowering and encouraging, uplifting and invigorating. Do we take the time to thank God for His grace, for seeing us as white as snow because of Jesus (Isaiah 1:18)? Do we slow ourselves to appreciate His goodness in spite of our shortcomings?

If we do not, then we are listening to the manipulative, fruitless voice of the enemy in our heads more than the bold, whispering promises of God in our hearts.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD’S PROMISE TO RESTORE US

One of my favorite past times is reading a great book and soaking up some fresh knowledge to appreciate understanding something new. The books I would read were written by people about their own experiences, or about experiences shared by friends or clients, and the message/lesson would be powerful and moving; transforming and introspective. I found value in understanding how the perspectives of the people involved were shaped either by pain (I.e. Disappointment and failure) or fulfillment (I.e. Success story/overcoming “impossible odds”). The point wasn’t that the stories had a happy ending or that things always go well, the lesson was that even when life is arduous and challenging, there is something valuable to be taken away from the pain/suffering involved. That wasn’t and still isn’t always easily digestible information, but its inspirational truth has the potential to renew a person’s inner perspective.

These same elements are found in the Bible as well, but they are much more complex because, not only are they as relatable as they are historical, they are also infused with God’s incorrigible Truth: the Bible is so spiritually transformative that, even written two millenniums ago by witnesses who experienced God so intrinsically—it is still helping people to follow Christ today.

I love when Jesus enters the story (in the flesh), and not only because He is the main character, but because of the promises and the hope He brings. I love how every person He comes across is impacted in some fundamental way; no one meets Him without some inner ripple effect taking place: He heals, He forgives, He influences; He offends, He loves, and He serves. Jesus as God in the flesh never leaves someone the same once He has introduced Himself, and the Bible tells this story.

Do we take enough time to relate to the people who lived and told the story of how God influenced their lives? Do we embrace and receive, fully, the magnitude of the Good News Jesus brings, and the restorative power of His promises to raise us up as new?

If we don’t, then we are putting the weight of our purpose and existence into the flawed, empty promises of this world through the flesh, rather than the freeing, fulfilling hope and joy that comes with receiving the Truth of God through Christ in the spirit.

INFLUENCES OF THIS WORLD vs EFFECTS OF CHRIST-FOLLOWING

Previously, I would watch more horror films and listen more to darker rock music with aggressive, explicit lyrics because that was what I was drawn to, and that is what I sought out. What changed is that later on (in my late twenties), I began seeking more peace in my life and in my spirit. During this transition, I found a very practical way to find peace was to reallocate my mind and heart’s energy to more fitting, realistic sources.

In the midst of my pursuit for peace, I discovered that by not watching as many horror films, I no longer carried a heavy sense of darkness in my heart about the world, and I experienced less violent imagery floating around in my mind from what I’d watched. Also, by listening to more uplifting, light-hearted music, I came to feel more upbeat and relaxed; less anxious, frustrated, or bitter towards people and the world around me.

Even further yet, joining a warm, inviting community with authentic Christ-followers brought me to experience others in this world who believe in a loving, provisional God in Jesus Christ, and that their love for Him inspired them to live their lives in a different manner. When I joined the community, I found myself feeling less isolated from the world and more fulfilled in my desire to be a part of something meaningful.

Where do we spend most of our mental/spiritual/physical energy? Do we give ourselves to the plight of this world; to pain and vindication for being wronged by other hurting, boundary-less individuals? Do we consider turning to a different Source for grace, strength, acceptance, peace, and unconditional love?

If not, then we dull our spirits by exhausting ourselves on the yolk of heavy sin, rather than on the light and easy yoke of the spirit who wants to give us rest, comfort, peace, and passion for what matters most.

INEVITABILITY OF THE EFFECTS OF OUR TRUTH

How we define our Truth will dramatically alter the way we live our lives, the way we do or don’t express an appropriate and unconditional love towards others, as well as the way we view our purpose in the lives of others around us. Our Truth is that by which we see the reason we are who we are, the reason why who we are matters, and how who we are impacts the choices we make, effecting the people around us. When our truth is based on the promises of this world (I.e. money, sex, power, etc.), it is prone to be more selfish, narcissistic, cynical, envious, and boundary-less. In turn, the way we live our lives may be isolated, condemning, clandestine, conditional, and non-transformative. Whether we want to or not, our actions, whether good or bad, impact the other people in our lives; whether someone close, or a complete stranger. The importance of understanding the significance of the way Truth impacts our lives is the difference between how we love others (or how we barely even love ourselves) and how we deviate others from experiencing God.

If our truth is that Jesus is not Lord, and that loving others depends on certain parts of a person rather than accepting a person as different than ourselves (in a general but boundary-loving manner), then our truth is limiting us from experiencing God more fully, and limiting others from experiencing Him through us. When we can learn to realize, accept, and embrace that the manner in which we see our lives and the others in it is largely significant and therefore impossible to bypass, we will also grasp the pertinent nature of the selflessness in choosing to intentionally impact others in a positive way, because we will understand the ways we are also impacted by others‘ choices and their Truth.

THE WALLS OF SHAME: BLOCKED FROM GOD’S GRACE

How are we living our lives? How is our Truth shaping the manner in which we live? How can we be more intentional with people in order to unveil in ourselves the empathy and compassion necessary to impact them with unconditional love?

Though God is constantly extending His grace, we aren’t always ready to receive it, and therefore we aren’t always living in gratefulness for it. Instead, we sometimes fall prey to living under the umbrella of shame. As a result, the shame of our flaws ends up stalling or stopping us from extending God’s gift of grace for us onto others, and in turn, how others end up receiving us is the way we live and act through our feeling shame rather than how we act through feeling thankfulness and joy. This backwards spiral keeps us from experiencing Jesus in full, and consequently, this limitation prevents us from displaying to others the love we are freely and unconditionally given in Christ, which is given regardless of our shame and sinful nature.

Our shame is a lie of the enemy, not a Truth from God; God convicts, only the enemy condemns. The difference is that condemnation points out our sin, the problem, whereas conviction reveals the answer to the problem, and the path towards changing our ways according to God’s love and Truth. God’s unconditional love is more powerful than the enemy’s condemnation; only a person who refuses God’s love out of self-deprecation and shame will be less likely to comprehend the unlimited nature of God’s love, nor the immeasurable depth of His grace, to consequently act and speak out of love towards others in response to these blessings. This person needs to let go of past hurts that have convinced him he is deserving of such condemnation and worthlessness, which do not come from God—and to turn his heart towards God, living from the heart posture of gratitude.

HANDCRAFTED MASTERPIECE

What is God’s Truth for you right now? In what area do you feel God calling you to turn from the lies of the enemy? Which lies are you believing, and how can you learn to live in the Truth of God’s grace so you will not only receive His love, but extend it to others? I invite you to open your heart, drop to your knees, and humbly give yourself in surrender to God’s will for you and your heart. You are never a prisoner to God, but a masterpiece handcrafted to serve His kingdom with love, grace, forgiveness, the surrender of your spirit, and your obedience to His will. There is no other truth like the Truth of Jesus’ abiding love and perfect desire for us to be in relationship with Him.

What is your Truth?

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Mere Christianity vs “Perfect” Christianity: Heart Posture

THE “PERFECT CHRISTIAN” FALLACY

Many Christians sometimes live under the pressure of a fallacy that, once a believer, one must “have their act together.” This creates a problem because it undermines one of the key reasons people turn to Christianity to begin with. A person who comes to the faith is initially humbled in admitting they are imperfect, recognizing their need for a Savior and their desire for a fulfilling way to live a life of intention, purpose, and Christ-like love.

One of the problems with the notion of a believer having their act together is that if, once a believer, a person did have their act together, what would be the purpose of continual faith? If the process of becoming a Christ-follower carried the full weight of the journey of faith, what reason would a person have to remain vigilant in the faith, keeping devoted and consistent with prayer life, community, the Bible, and choosing God first above all things? There would be no need if we were made perfect through the commencement of faith. But this is far from the actual truth, and the actual truth is what I want to explore in this article.

THE ‘WALK OF FAITH’ LIFE DOESN’T END

When a person first gives their life to Christ, among the first actions usually urged by spiritual leaders of a church is to get involved. Whether by life group or volunteer work, the purpose is for the believer to get to know others within the community of Christ-followers. But, why? Is this ritual-based, or perhaps a per-church requirement? Very simply, the purpose is to encourage, uplift, and support the new believer in their faith walk. Christians not only need to continue to strengthen their faith in Christ, but also, outside support from those around them when facing the spiritual struggles of life (I.e. Doubt, defeat, depression, grief, etc.). A Christian is not called to walk their journey alone, but we are called to be part of one ‘body’ (metaphorical for ‘community’).

We, as believers, are called to reflect the Truth of Christ and be an example for others, encouraging one another in our adversities (1 Timothy 4:12) (Hebrews 10: 24-25). We are called not to be haughty, but to be able to associate with people of low positions (Romans 12:16). To be a Christ-follower is not to have the attitude of a conceited critic, looking down from the throne of pride, but rather, faith calls us to be dependent on Christ and to love others the way He first loved us (John 15:12). We can’t love unconditionally if are fixated on the belief that we are made perfect through the mere professing of faith. Surely, we are not made “perfect” in Him if, by the professing of our faith, we become so proud of our title as a Christian that we mistake loving others for closing others off from experiencing His overflowing love through our expression of gratitude for God’s grace (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Undoubtedly, a new believer needs the nourishment of support from other believers who understand the difficulties and struggles of faith: the dryness of despair in a hurting world, the chaos of spiritual warfare, and the heaviness of the occasional stint of doubt as a result of experiencing this world at its cruelest. We, as Christ-followers, never have our act together, in the sense that we are never in so much control not to need any help. It would be beneficial to remember and remain aware that grace is given to us through Jesus’s love and volition, and not because of any act of our own. After all, it was while we were still sinners that He came and died for us (Romans 5:8). Therefore, actions are not a prerequisite for grace, but a means by which we can express our thanks for what He did on the cross.

THE DANGEROUS GAVEL OF CONDEMNATION

Still, other times Christians face pressure from unbelievers to ‘be better’ because, after identifying as a Christian publicly, they are met with criticism for not being a more “perfect” (I.e. Nice, selfless, compassionate, friendly, mannered, gentle, forgiving) person.

Critics sometimes stigmatize Christians as the failure of a promise towards perfection when they see a believer act “out of line,” because there is a fallacious notion that once a believer, faith makes the person “better” than an unbeliever. But this problematic assumption is rooted from people having witnessed believers who treat faith like a graduation certificate in the morality of life, behaving as though they know better than they really do, waving around a dangerous combination of Christianity and condemnation like a gavel.

There are many unbelievers with previous experiences in which a person treated them unfairly or unjustly while identifying themselves as Christian. These actions do not align with what Jesus intended for the community of Christ-followers to hold true to (loving others the way He first loved us), but they do not defeat Christ or His work by any means. Believers must be diligent and committed in lifting each other up to continue putting into action loving those who don’t understand the life-changing invitation to relationship with Christ, being renewed in the spirit, nor the significant role humility plays in choosing surrender to Christ.

AUTHENTIC MOTIVES IN A FALLEN WORLD

The notion of a Christian having his act together has an authentic root, however. Generally, depending on the true heart posture of the person before giving his life to Christ, a person who becomes a believer has a genuine desire to improve the manner in which he lives his life, the passion with which he loves his family and friends, and to express a more Christ-like acceptance/love/grace towards strangers. These intentions are byproducts of the Holy Spirit working in a person and moving him towards closer alignment with relationship with Jesus.

When a Christian speaks or acts in an unloving way towards a person, the claim that the believer is a bad example of the faith is a reality check that any believer is just as imperfect and flawed as any unbeliever. However, the difference is between a believer and nonbeliever is that the believer wants to improve, and to do so as a reflection of Christ’s impact on their life. The point to take away from this is the importance of discerning and distinguishing between two heart postures:

1. A person who is emptily professing they are a Christian but not acting or speaking from a genuinely Christ-like heart posture.

2. A person who identifies as a Christ-follower, makes mistakes, then repents; making noticeable changes in behavior to display Christ’s influence in their life.

While number 1 is refutable, number 2 is increasingly important to consider. The only authentically good change a believer can make is to turn their heart to Christ in humility and try again.

“REFLECTIONS” OF CHRIST, NOT ‘REPLICAS’

Christianity is merely a word until a person depicts Christ-like qualities. That means the actions of a Christ-centered individual coincide with the Truth that the only perfection that exists does so through Christ, and is merely reflected through a person who identifies as a follower. Put differently, perfection exists only through Christ (God incarnate), and therefore, to expect more “better-ness” from a person is too high of a standard from which to judge. There is always room for more improvement, so the best action to take is to choose Christ, move forward, and humble ourselves to receive His grace again and again when we mess up—which we will—taking responsibility for our sinful choices but always turning to Jesus for the strength and grace to try again. His grace is sufficient, His love unending. If we can learn to view others through a more Christ-like lens, we will then come to see others with a deeper sense of empathy, understanding, patience, grace, forgiveness, and love, while not looking down on them with unnecessary condemnation. Only Jesus is Jesus. Believers are His followers, and we must humble ourselves constantly to be redirected by Him. We are nothing without Him, but because of Him, we are made new in God’s eyes, and that is the actual Truth that will set us free from ourselves, others’ criticism, the lies of this world, and the choice to live our lives the way we would without Him.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

Sticky Notes: Grace Is Sufficient

LOGICAL CONSISTENCY AND GRACE

Logical consistency would say that grace, by itself, does not make sense. We hardly have the capacity to fathom how to bring good reasoning to understand such a transcendent concept. The Bible states grace is “sufficient,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) yet, when we remove it from the context of spiritual parlance, we consider grace to be beyond human understanding (i.e., Beyond our ability to grasp how grace fits into “daily life” without the interjection of spiritual conversation). One could conclude that, according to logical consistency, grace makes sense of faith because it is beyond human understanding (i.e., Grace and faith are both beyond human understanding, yet they are both empirical, verifiable experiences by those who have been called by the Holy Spirit). Concordantly and simultaneously, grace is, in its transcendence, sufficient in that it brings us to Jesus in humility and surrender.

 CHRISTIANITY, FROM THE HEART

One of the more explicit signs of an authentic Christian transformation is expressed in the way a believer starts living (passionately ((i.e., with interest and purpose)) in the name of Jesus) and stops “moving stagnantly” (phlegmatically) through life; insofar as leaving behind the listless repetition and soulless boredom of faithless monotony; or less intensely, leaving behind the complacent life of “good enough.”

One of the most important lessons I learned during my stint of more intense spiritual questioning was how Christianity is not just some “hat” I wear, the countenance on my face, the church I attend, or the people I know; Christianity is either in my heart, from the heart, or it’s nothing and nowhere to be found. My faith, whether or not it makes logical sense (outside the argument by grace), only becomes a complete picture if it takes place in my heart first. 

Does that mean that faith wasn’t in my heart before my struggle? No, let me explain. What I am conveying is that for the past 8 years, I was trying to be Christian, instead of receiving my faith organically (through the spirit) and being reshaped (through complete surrender) from the inside out. I was still lost in the mode of earning my place in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than receiving the invitation through Christ’s humility, compassion, surrender, boldness, and sacrifice on the cross.

HUMBLED BEYOND UNDERSTANDING

I’ve always been a “nice guy” to people. But there are a LOT of nice atheists in this world. There are also a lot of nice people who don’t even know what they believe. They are remiss to the idea of faith and destitute of the riches of unconditional love spawning from its seed. Faith instigates inner change, permanently. Once Christ penetrates the heart, the invitation extended, the heart is gently but intractably humbled beyond understanding (logic gets lost in the dark as the peace of grace overwhelms the spirit). Immediately, logic demands to understand how the dots were connected through the mystery of grace. Logic, however, will be disappointed to no end until it realizes the root of its desire to understand grace is pride (i.e., “Why can’t I understand this! It must make sense, or it isn’t real!”).

From the past two months, I understand more clearly now why logic doesn’t need to make sense of grace in order for faith to be fully functional: Grace is the internal movement (response/effect) of the outer action (cause) of mercy: While we deserve to be punished (justice for sin), God gives us grace instead of tortureThere isn’t an invitation into humility like this found anywhere else in history or in any other book. Yet this is the invitation—(the “Good News”) not to earn our way to Heaven, but to be transformed (revived, restored, renewed, reborn) through receiving Christ and to respond by living a different life in awe/praise/worship/surrender/love of the God who extended this mercy to us through the selfless sacrifice of His Son.

HAND OVER HAND: GRACE FOR LOGIC

What makes sense to me now that didn’t before are the operative machinations of grace; how humility feels in differentiation to believing one requires logical consistency to connect the “spiritual dots.” Logic can act practically, such as aiding a person in understanding the importance of attending church (community and glorifying God with others, not obligation); it can explain the reasons for having a balanced life of prayer, supplication, surrender, time set aside for prayer, and making God number one—but only grace could create the space for the surrender (whereas logic can only “make sense of,” or intellectualize the reason for these steps/lifestyle decisions, it cannot move us towards or within their essence—which is to bring us closer to God) to occur—not logic. For solid Christians (i.e., Believers who have been pursuing their faith for long enough that there is an “absolute-ness” to it; it has become their essence, not another ritualistic facet of their week), this is 2 + 2; for me, it’s fresh, new, and helpful. This realization took me out of my quest for logical consistency to define my faith and into understanding the importance of humility through the acceptance of grace in my heart. These are, of course, no easy truths to unravel if you’re depending on the brain to pave the path towards understanding faith.

REVITALIZED THROUGH THE SPIRIT

The spirit is not driven by thought (logic), the spirit is moved from the ‘heart’—that is, a persons’s life force—which is connected to the spirit (the spirit—which is connected to the Holy Spirit once it is called by the grace of Jesus through the Spirit). If we can receive this truth, then we can surrender our propensity to have logical consistency take the reins and instead, receive the free-flow of the spirit as it moves through us from within.

Logic can and should be used as a complement to faith, but not as a pillar, cornerstone, or explanation for faith. Grace initiates, surrender follows, the spirit rebirths (revitalizes), and the body (flesh/brain) experiences the overflow (Empirical Adequacy: the inner-working of the Spirit’s movement inside us, existing as the experience verifiably considered “proof” or “evidence” for faith in something ((namely God/Jesus)) beyond our understanding/logic).

I like the saying, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience,” because with regards to logical consistency, this makes sense of our experience with Jesus, faith, and logic. We want to make sense of having faith in what we can’t logically explain, but in receiving grace, logic is abdicated as it is humbled into a new role. We could call this “abdication” a miracle, because it, too, is beyond our understanding. Grace opens our eyes (removes the “veil” of ‘spiritual blindness’) to a plane of possibility logic cannot comprehend—in turn, permitting our logic to learn to depend on humility and the ‘pull’ of the Holy Spirit, rather than the brain-induced need for logic to make sense of it all. 

RESTORATION, AND EMANATING JESUS

Why am I a Christian? A very close friend asked me this; not as a test, but as a means of having me introspect my faith. I am a Christian because I’d rather give all that I am to the cause of Jesus than to any other cause. What is His cause? Restoration/perfection. Out of love, He wants to rebuild our spirits with perfection and eternality. Never leaving us the same, He desires completion for us on our own behalf. He knows what completion is because He is the very epitome of completion. This is the humbling aspect of Christ: Not only did He die for us while we were still sinners, but He did so when He was not lacking. He wanted to create us as an outworking of His love so we would be able to experience His essence. There was no reward for Him in this decision—it was entirely unconditional and selfless. He simply wants us to experience HIM, but we must put into practice what it means to be a Christ-follower: Loving our neighbor as ourselves; loving God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength by changing our lives (in practical, visible, noticeable ways) in response. We are disciples if we love in His name, if we turn from our old ways upon receiving the Good News that we no longer need to be bound to sin through the past (shame), and that we can be freed to live for Him who saved us while we were still choosing anything but Him.

Yes, I want Jesus to be God; I want Him to be my Lord. There is no other so captivating as He who saved me with His undying love while I did nothing but exist. 

BEYOND TRANSIENCE: FULFILLMENT

If we turn away from Jesus, we know exactly what happens: Nothing. But are we afraid of what will happen if we give Him a chance? Do we grow skeptical that a life of Christ-following means boring church services and obligatory prayer sessions? If this was what Christianity really was, I would still be an atheist. But Jesus is real, and the way I know this is how my heart has been moved by Him. My “spiritual heart,” of course. Metaphorical or not, I have felt Him move; there’s no denying His movement in my life and the lives of others around me. There is clearly a God who created this planet for us in advance to survive, and we are only hurting our fulfillment of a complete life if we choose to believe that this beautiful transience was made for nothing more than aesthetics; that our very sense of purpose is really a meaningless hole left to be unfilled by the empty desires of nihilism. 

LOGIC’S “STICKY NOTES”

No longer do I find myself perusing the walls of logical consistency for the answers to the drawn-out battle of understanding faith. I invite my readers to consider the importance of the role logic plays in our relationship with faith. Rather than viewing logic as a foundation to faith, logic must remain a footstool to gather information in order to bring the investigation full circle; meaning, back to faith. Faith must be the root while logic merely acts as a note-taker. Using logic in this manner calls grace to do the work in our spirits, whereas utilizing logic for more than this forces us to depend on our “sticky notes” for understanding faith in full. We already know why this doesn’t work: If logic’s “sticky notes” are meant to help us understand faith in full, then grace has no significance, and without grace, we are forgiving ourselves from within our own sin. That simply doesn’t work, especially according to logical consistency; one cannot commit sin (unknowingly) and have the omniscient capacity necessary to denote what is sinful—concordantly requiring justice and effectively implementing it. This does not add up whatsoever, rescinding its own argument in the process. No, logic must remain the footstool while grace remains our conduit of understanding the path of humility we are called into by the spirit. With this, we understandably remove grace from Logic’s hands and place it back into the Spirit’s. Logic, with its sticky notes, will be just fine. Grace is sufficient on its own.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

Believe

Spiritual Peripheries: The War Between Nihilism and Faith

HEAVY SPIRITUAL BURDEN

In the spiritual static of despair, doubt roams steadily but uneasily, prepared to consume and destroy but unable to capitulate the desire to understand and heal.

For several weeks now, I have been experiencing a heavy spiritual burden that has had me vacillating between the darkness of disbelief and the hope that the pieces will eventually fall into place before I lose my sanity, my faith, or both. 

From the buoyancy of this spiritual ambivalence comes the whirlwind, the inner-storm, of misunderstanding the roots of faith itself. What do you believe, and why do you believe it? These are the questions my storm has brought to me the last several weeks, and the lingering silence has been haunting me. What could cause a believer to doubt and question in this way? Which direction does doubt take the precarious Christian? If you find it in yourself to follow my pattern of thought and self-examination, we will search for the clarity of truth underneath this lull of uncertain theism.

LOGIC’S INCOMPREHENSION OF FAITH

In hindsight, I realized a while ago that for the majority of the past 8 years, I’ve been trying to understand Jesus through the conduit of logic. It’s no surprise then, looking back over how my faith came to be, that if I am to find logic as one of the pillars of how I came to grasp what faith is and what it means to me, then my foundations have indeed been frivolous and fallible. In retrospect, understanding faith through logic is like estimating the loyalty of a relationship by scoring how many kisses and hugs prescribe genuine commitment. There is no such equation, of course, and as such, the “formula” to faith is arbitrary and oppositional to any methodical delineation of digits or images. Faith is unlike logic in that it commences in the spirit. Concordantly, one must in the least acknowledge belief in both the human spirit (in addition to the body) as well as a personal, sentient God to grasp more fully the significant purpose of the Christian God in Jesus Christ.

THE REASONING OF AN ATHEIST

An atheist commenting on one of my previous articles turned into an e-mail discussion between the two of us, which eventually culminated in his inquiring for “good reasoning” in order to believe in God and Jesus. In light of arguing God’s existence over the constituents of logic and reasoning, the reason for belief in God comes down to purpose. When I disbelieved in both God and Jesus back 10 years ago, I was nearly certain I had no purpose, which is why I wanted to end my life. The atheist I confabulated with expressed himself with stubborn, austere logic, preventing him from viewing Jesus as any more than a fantasy conjured in the imaginative minds of ancient authors from millenniums past. Reasoning itself, I find, is the schism between the conduit of faith and logic, since logic and faith use different patterns of reasoning to understand their own platforms of belief. Let me explain.

LOGIC VS. FAITH

Logic is made viable through the reasoning of mathematics, formulas, particulars and specifics to reach a narrow and condensed table of exacts. Faith is a much more open-ended platform which allows room for belief in the spirit to expand what we declare to know and believe about our own metaphysical existence—apart from our physical, bodily existence in this three-dimensional world. If one grows skeptical over this “expansion” of belief, the believer could ask the skeptic to explain, from their point of view, the otherwise mysterious paranormal activities and spiritual interventions, such as bodily possession, dramatized vocal changes, telekinetic movement of inanimate objects—and all of these apart from the more “benevolent” testimonies of the inner transformation of murderers and addicts into devoted Christians committing their life to Jesus, praising His name publicly and living drastically altered lifestyles after declaring Jesus as Lord. Logic cannot adequately examine such miracles with mathematical particulars. These are beyond explanation, as they act solely as their own evidence in spiritualized empiricism. 

“THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL”

The foggy haze I’ve experienced for the last several weeks has kept my spirituality from moving out of stagnancy and into growth. I’ve considered the possibility that I’m experiencing what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul,” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591) and it’s quite possible this is far from over. This spiritual stint is as unpredictable as it is unmeasurable, since the purification of the soul is commensurate with how much space in the spirit the grace of God frees and opens in the vessel He is refining.

Such a darkness is very familiar to me, especially since I spent years devoting my spirit (though I didn’t believe in the spirit at the time) to doubt and rage, becoming familiar with agnosticism, disbelief, loneliness, and suffering. Familiarity with these led me to expect them to remain my rock and comforters, rather than Jesus. Therefore the darkness in correspondence with “The Dark Night of the Soul” is merely different in the way this new darkness is wielded by God with the intention of making my faith stronger through the conduits of humility, surrender, and reformation; whereas the darkness from many years ago was initiated and manipulated by traumatic circumstances.

Unrestrained familiarity with misery, suffering, and pain (i.e. emotional trauma) would affect a person’s clarity in discerning the reasoning for their belief, as well as awareness of that belief—by confining the conduits of clarity and reasoning to the darkest recesses of the human psyche; namely, the claustrophobic anti-belief of nihilism—that everything we do, are, and experience hopelessly exist without meaning or purpose. 

THE ANTI-THEISM OF NIHILISM

Spiritual tension-turned-rebellion, born of aggressive unbelief, is a sure-fire trajectory into the dangerously obscured, empty waters of nihilism. How is this true? Spiritual tension is the static thought between our desire for purpose and our denial of its manifestation in our lives, and when this static thought is left undeveloped or unmoved, it can transmute to the colorless backdrop of nihilistic beliefs, beginning with the fallacy that purpose itself is an ideological myth conjured in order for people to tolerate the inevitable tragedy of suffering.

Ultimately, every person believes in something, if nothing less than the something of nothingness (the anti-theism born of nihilism). In order to incarnate the belief in nothingness into its own ideology however, one must incorporate the anti-belief into action by implementing a lifestyle commensurate with the immaterial of its corresponding anti-faith. In order to accept such a broad, ambiguous, and practically anarchic freedom from spirituality or religiosity, one must force-feed themselves the tentative possibility that purpose does not matter, inferring that the significance of meaning itself is purely subjective. In effect, this inference demands that we indefatigably consider accepting that we need neither (purpose nor meaning) to determine whether or not either are mandatory to live a fulfilling, complete life.

SEVERING EMOTIONAL BONDS

Surely we can try to imagine a life without purpose, but such a life demands the severing of emotional association or attachment; connections to people and things which feed us the feeling of acceptance and belonging. Purpose demands that a person finds an intrinsic truth regarding his or her life in feeling connected to a person or thing, and that that connection is their reason to live. We innately seek a feeling of connection, belonging, and acceptance, as this is the criteria from which we search our lives for purpose. Oppositely, the severing of bonds as required of nihilism demands that we retire this criteria and resist/ignore/avoid the desire to connect at all.

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PURPOSELESSNESS

The very substance of relationships is how we sense our purpose inside the connections we feel safest in. Safety guards our purpose with closure, rebuking the fear we have of losing our purpose and ensuring our existence with the emotional belief that we need connection to live. Purposelessness demands the opposite, requiring that we sever this connection and live under the belief that we need nothing; the thoughts in our head and the repetition of routine—or the adventure of spontaneity—survive merely as luxurious conveniences and psychological appendages stuffed within the unnecessary fat of our brain. However, these “appendages” are also connected to us via purpose—we derive a sense of purpose from either being on the go, or being swept up by the monotonous flow of expecting our life to mirror itself day-by-day. In other words, even what we may refer to as a literalistic sense of purposelessness requires that we remain connected to purpose in such a way as to continue living in the wavelength of a predictably phlegmatic nonchalance.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as purposelessness, as even declaring ourselves without purpose commands that we seek purpose in some other materialistic way. To be completely without purpose would infer a premature nonexistence; not even in death, but only in never having been born into an earthly body in the first place would we no longer carry a purpose. We would then be void of the spirit sustaining this psychological dichotomy between living for someone or something, and living only for the uncompromising dissatisfaction of materialism—both of which require a connection to purpose through the conduit of belief to remain coherently true.

NIHILISM’S CATCH 22

If we are to accept that we have a purpose, then we must also accept the truth behind nihilism, namely that it is a lie attempting to manipulate us into believing there is nothing to believe. Since that is the fundamental root of nihilism, which in itself is a belief, then what we can gather is that the purpose of nihilism is to believe that there is nothing to believe—or, in other words—a “catch 22.” Once we accept this ‘catch’ as a lie, we simultaneously grasp the truth of our purpose, which promises—through the Christian faith—that our most intrinsic need is to connect, belong, be accepted, feel loved, and trust this feeling of safety within the parameters of intimacy (fellowship)—through our belief that life is fulfilled by experiencing intimacy with other people by the love and grace of God through Jesus. 

A DARK BURDEN REVEALED

This said, as a believer unsure of the source point from which my faith originally began, I am curious to understand the basis of the faith I first started ingesting 8 years ago. My reasoning for this choice is this. Either I completely engage with Jesus, or I pull back entirely by refusing Him. If I refused Jesus access to my heart and gave Him a definitive “no” for an answer (which isn’t something I’m prepared to do), I believe I would end up returning to the lonely, dejecting life of doubt and uncertainty which, after the terrible despair of my adolescent years, I know would be far more severe. Aware of this, I am not ready to refuse Jesus, but careful to tread the waters slowly, unsure of whether this water is where I belong (purpose); not so much because of whether it is too “hot” or “cold,” (preferable or not) but based on whether or not it is the life I feel (spiritually) intrinsically associated with. For example, there are places in this world where each of us feel out of place, out of sync, and disconnected—not only with our environment and the people in it, but also with ourselves. This disconnectedness is our spirit speaking to our subconscious, making known that we don’t belong there and commanding that we find the place where we do. In likeness, I need to comprehend my connectedness with Jesus to move forward with Him.

This is how I know I don’t belong within the torture of refusing Jesus: I can sense—even in the hospitable rumination of denying Him—that He would let me turn away to walk towards to the darkest of the black of anti-faith to allow me to experience the burden I had chosen, in order to reveal why I would ultimately choose to come running back to Him, sincerely desperate for a Savior once more.

THE SOURCE OF THE BATTLE

Sometimes, in the midst of spiritual chaos, there is no happy ending in sight. That is a reality just as there is no war without bloodshed and pain. We began our introspection with the question, “What do you believe, and why?” This question leads us in many directions without an effective compass. We know we cannot expect logic to help us determine a direction because the brain cannot comprehend the spirit. In the middle of this desert-like darkness myself, I have few helpful words to write about where to turn to other than towards the hope that a response from Jesus will come. I am not without any personal experiences inviting me to believe Jesus is real in my life, but I am attempting to understand whether my previous experiences conjured a belief I wanted to cling to for the sake of having something to cling to (careening on the periphery of nihilism while insinuating a lack of genuine surrender to the invitation of Christianity from the start), or whether my beliefs were conjured inevitably from a supernatural source of spiritual transcendence (grace). 

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

Despite my storm, I believe faith to be necessary because without it, we leave all our questions and curiosities without answers or explanations— without even so much as acknowledgement that our questions and yearning to understand derive from our desire to know our life purpose.

Our need to know our purpose is given to us from our Creator, and it is my awareness of this which gives me the one and only glimmer of hope that there must be a reason I want the belief in Jesus as Lord to make more sense in my spirit, and less like an “I told you so” from the outside world. It is this desire to understand why I would want Jesus to be my Lord that keeps me from asking Him to leave me in utter darkness. Moving forward, may God open our eyes and help us to see the Truth He has called us to embrace, and be transformed by his grace in the process. I pray this for myself and for you, in the name of Jesus.

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Feel free to leave any thoughts or feelings regarding this article in the comments below, or write me privately using my Contact page. May God bless you, readers!

Foggy

In the Dark: Processing Doubt With Faith

BEAUTIFIED PAIN

Resting under the dark grayish blue hues of makeup that is the dawn of the sky’s face on a Sunday morning, I listened to the placating voice of Leslie Mills in Yanni’s “Before the Night Ends” while my stoic, broken gaze was raptured by the song’s emotion. Truthfully, my faith is hurting; I have been feeling distant from God, yet His gift to me through this perfectly beautified pain resonates in way I cannot avoid or deny. 

There are moments, stints in Christianity alike the inevitably “natural” cycle of life—where intermittent adversity strikes spontaneously and painfully. A time arrives when faith seems like the wrong choice, when Christ Himself seems like a lost fictional character in a fairy tale reserved strictly for the absent-minded folk looking for an escape rather than a solution. How long does this phase last? More importantly, is this just a phase, or a reality within the life of faith? I would like to explore these thoughts here.

ABJECT DOUBT AND MINDLESS RESISTANCE

What strikes me is this specific facet of hardship in Christianity; namely, the facet of doubt becoming so abject as to seem more real than belief itself. Not so much regarding the level or scale of faith required of the believer to retain spiritual composure in the face of adversity, but rather the weight-filled capacity one is required to open/free up in sacrificing the “old self” in order to fully embrace the “new self” and “pick up our cross to follow Him.” In other words, what I’m facing is the violent, mindless resistance of my old self desiring its place back in my life. But my eyes have been opened: I cannot “un-see” my faith. I have been embraced by His essence and enraptured by His truth—I cannot un-know what I now know anymore than I cannot take off my humanity and become a centipede. 

THE MIRAGE THAT IS LIFE

Within this thought is the honest truth and opinion that Christianity is not “easy,” depending on the perspective of the believer. But, I would sternly argue how faith in Jesus as Lord is not an invitation to an easier life; this is as naive as believing dessert is healthy because it looks and sounds delicious. Christianity can look shiny and clean at times, and that is not a facade—but that is not the full picture: It is but one angle from a single mind within a multifarious crowd of individuals, each at different intervals of the same adventure led by the same leader. “Cleanness” is but an attribute of orderliness and fair-play, one which would profess Christianity does not shed blood nor experience pain, and this is as fallacious as life itself acting as a mere biological mirage in the form of keratinocytes/epidermis (or skin), electrical wiring, hormones, and thought patterns. This is, after all, the surface value human experience as we know it; one we can deny or believe, resist or accept, but which exists nonetheless as our mental skeleton of life, positioning us between existence and what comes afterwards. 

After almost 10 years of investigating faith and Jesus, a stark truth stands out: Faith generally appeals to the hearts of those who see nothing else to turn to in our cosmically darkened labyrinth of existence, and also to those who realize they have altogether seen too much and fear turning in any other direction other than the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

A JEALOUS GOD, AND A NEW ‘SKIN’

Listening to “Before the Night Ends” brought me to a calm and stolid state of mind. I slowed down enough to realize my position in my faith and my thoughts of Christianity at this point in time: In the air, vacillating between the desire to scream at the sky (as if God is there and not inside me through the Holy Spirit) and my incessant need (and inability to admit otherwise) for His love and presence—despite my rebellion to pursue Him more adamantly. I make God jealous by desiring anything other than Him before desiring Him. The adversity of the Christian (the psychological portion of the “Christian ‘mess,'” if you will) is the level of aversive doubt we must face and fight with faith. Our faith, of course, is only as strong as the amount of ourselves we’re willing to “let die” in order to gain the “new epidermis”; namely the new spiritual skin of faith—armor from above in the form of a belief more pertinacious than any tangible iron we could strap over our chest. 

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

As I listened, the words and flow of the song reminded me of a stark image of the Christian faith: Christianity has moments when we are called to either fight or rest (among other, smaller roles within these two); the fight could be evangelism, prayer, or simply obedience in the face of rebellion. Rest could be meditation, surrender of thought or concern, singing praises, or even physical rejuvenation. At some point, however, there will always come the opposite (fight or rest), and this striking point hit me like a wrecking ball while in my car. This song, having pulled me into the trance of relaxation, had me realize I was resting in the posture of gaining back some strength—but for what? To fight again. We are not called to permanently rest on this earth.

Those who claim they will rest when they’re dead do not understand the balance of work and play, nor the purpose and importance of human relationships/community/family. Those who do not understand there is a time for ‘fast’ and a time for ‘slow’ are unwise and “like a leaf in the wind,” trapped between indulgence and desire. When Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) He was inviting us not to get carried away with the exhaustion of constantly living in action (“fight” mode). His invitation was not only Him saying, “I have the power to give you the rest you seek,” it was actually initiating the thought that we need to seek rest from our adversities/battles. There is a time to fight and a time to rest; a time to suffer and a time to heal—Jesus knew this. There is a calm before the storm, and Jesus saw the storms coming.

AN IMPERSONAL GOD – ‘FATE INCARNATE’

Another point which jarred me off balance recently during a visit with family (unbelievers) is how easy it is to live life believing we are here on earth to just get along, cooperate, make a living, and one day die peacefully. This seemed easy to believe while I was with them, but this notion strikes me as not only naive, but completely God-less. We don’t need belief in God to believe life should be more fair, more cooperative, more complacent, or more peaceful. We don’t need belief in God (nor even acknowledgement of Him) in order to bite into the food in our hands because we can still do that without realizing it’s by His love and grace that we have the ability to move at all. But if we impersonalize God and turn Him into a “force” without morality or emotion, He becomes Karma or Fate Incarnate, moving only as a manifestation of Nature (Pantheism); a character in the book of humanity written by humanity from the opinion and limited observation of humans. The emphasis here is to be placed between that which humans make of God when we are inspired by God, and what humans make of a ‘force’ when they are only inspired by thought and perception

DIGESTING THE EXTREMES

For unbelievers, the God of the Bible is too fantastical and histrionic; dramatized with fire pillars, red seas, and a resurrection. But forbid the idea that God could become personal or intimate, lest He become someone we realize we actually have the choice to deny or receive. How can God become so personal as to have a relationship with a human being, and how could He be “born” through a virgin? These questions pass through us, first burning through our brains and down to our hearts where we subconsciously hold hostage the seemingly preposterous idea that we would rather have a personal God—if only the ideology behind such a belief made more sense than the way it is described/presented in a 2,000 year-old book of parables, metaphors, and far-fetched ideas (dragons in an unforeseen world ((Revelations)), a talking snake ((Genesis)), Heaven/Hell).

We then push this notion down from our hearts to our stomachs where we hope we will digest the confusion and forget we were ever bothered by such a conundrum. But eventually, because of Who created our minds and hearts to begin with, these thoughts will return and we will be invited once more to explicate who we are and why we are here. We can either live in the loop of a downwards spiral trajectory (digesting and giving away all hope of a purposeful life), or we can take the time to understand what appears to be a mystery, in turn, finding our Creator in the process and allowing Him to speak over the chaos that is our hearts in this world.

A MESS WITHIN THE STORM OF FAITH

We are given only two options, and this makes us frustrated and resentful. If there is such a God, why doesn’t He just make it all simpler? we ask. We have two choices, not ten thousand or ten million. The choice is between yes and no; it could not get simpler than this unless He literally told us what to say. The truth is, we know what He would love for us to choose, but we still need to make that decision. This decision, of course, will only begin with our yes or no—the rest of our lives will be a ripple effect of that answer, living by faith instead of self-dependency, boldness instead of fear; hope instead of mystery. Jesus Christ is the “Good News,” and even though Christianity is a big mess, it’s a mess because we’re in a storm. 

Looking at this from the big picture, we might say that life itself is the “big picture” form of the ‘fight,’ and that when we die we will be at ‘rest.’ In this sense, the storm is messy, but even in the storm, Jesus does give us rest; we get time to do a little clean-up to feel rejuvenated and energized, and that’s when we’re called back into the storm. This is all Christianity—the good and the not-so-comfortable. We weren’t called to just live in the backseat while Jesus drives the car: He will stop, intermittently, call for us to fight a battle by His side, and He will help us win—even if we are injured. He knows the injuries are only testimonies to His goodness and sovereignty in that He will not only heal us, He will make us new.

WE ARE NEVER WITHOUT JESUS

If you’re like me, and you find yourself doubting your faith or questioning Jesus at times, recall the truth that we’re in a storm, and that this storm was given to us because it will bring us closer to God when we are obedient in pursuing His presence even while it appears to be distant. Jesus is never far, He is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will not forsake us or abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6). If you feel like He’s forgotten you, I encourage you to share that with Him openly and anticipate His response. I would encourage you to pray with a believer who will agree with you in prayer. God will send you an answer, and He will not leave you to fall into disbelief; He will lead you to remember that only He is God, and that you are deeply loved. Be lifted high, readers. In Jesus name!

CONNECT WITH ME

If you felt you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. You can also reach me on my Contact Page, it would be a blessing to read your thoughts! God bless you, readers!

Bloggers Recognition Award

A little over a week ago, I was nominated for the Bloggers Recognition Award by Beautiful Southern Heart’s own Kristen Walker. I’m incredibly humbled to have received this nomination and grateful for Kristen’s heart in this world. Her writing is vulnerable and real, and I appreciate her openness. As a Christian writer, I can see the way her faith influences her writing with the purpose of helping others to be better versions of themselves. Kristen, keep it up, there is a hungry world for people like you who have something meaningful, powerful, and intentional to say.


rules

  • Thank the Blogger that nominated you!
  • Write a post to show your award!
  • Give a brief story of how you started your blog
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers!
  • Select 9 Bloggers, you want to give this award to!
  • Comment on each blog to let them know you have nominated them, also link your post to their nomination!

About_me1.gif

Though I began writing my blog in January 2016, I was writing long before then. I first put pen to paper for the intentional purpose of writing out thoughts when I was a sophomore in high school, soon after my first major heartbreak. Someone important to me lied to me and broke my heart, and that spawned the idea to write out emotional words of anguish, betrayal, pain, frustration, and many others. While I started off just writing words that rhymed together with the harsh acrimony of my darker emotions, this outlet eventually transmuted into poetry and song lyrics. Writing remained one of my outlets alongside weight-lifting, and by the time I graduated high school, I had written hundreds of songs/poems. By then I thought I was finished, but I couldn’t see my future then the way I can see my past now in hindsight: My writing continued throughout my college years in Florida and into my life in California, where I would start writing here on my blog.

This blog began with me writing about random subjects (my first article had been about mental pain and how role models help inspire those people in pain—it is deleted now as well as many others) and slowly, over the course of a few months, became a blog about my faith in Jesus. It was after I felt called to write about my faith rather than merely about my opinions about life that I began focusing more seriously on writing about the impact of faith on life. My blog enabled me (and continues to) to pour faith into places a blog can reach and where I (physically) cannot.

I believe the entire world needs to know about Jesus (the Bible calls us to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations of the earth Mark 16:15), which is why I make this blog public. I try to make clear that I am open to answering questions and hearing others’ thoughts, especially with regards to faith. I mean to help others to feel heard, acknowledged, and understood by letting them speak their minds/hearts, and giving them the space to do so.

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I’ve done a lot of reading in my thirty years of existence, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge from the minds and vernacular of other writers and their thought processes/beliefs. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of finding difficult words and ideas which made me slow down and think; not merely about a new vocabulary word, but about the complex ability to consider thoughts and beliefs far outside that of my comfort zone. Increasingly, this became something I rather enjoyed because I equated this “shock value,” if you will, to determining how much there was that I still didn’t know. This transformed the fear of the unfamiliar to unparalleled zeal for the unknown.

Throughout this process, I have come to realize this is the way I love writing most; taking others out of their comfort zones, and challenging them not only with new words, but with new thoughts, considerations, beliefs, and ideologies far outside of what they may be used to or familiar with. I consider the act of such a perspective shift to be a blessing and a courtesy, because without it, we would remain “blind” to the ‘outside’ of ourselves. This said, my first piece of advice would be to allow ourselves to be challenged and brought “outside of ourselves,” that we would know more than our “self” is already telling us. For me, faith in Christ has renewed my spirit and given me hope for an eternity far outside life on this earth. I would never have considered this if I had remained blind and uncurious, and I do not desire this blindness for anyone else.

PIECE OF ADVICE #2

My second piece of advice would be to seek and find what love means to you by coming to know the character, story, and truth of Jesus. I spent most of my life not believing in Jesus, and when He opened my eyes to see Him during my mid-twenties, my heart was radically changed. In this way—through coming to know and understand Jesus—I believe we come to understand love, and by understanding love in such a fundamentally different way, I believe we eventually discover the reality that God is love, that love is not God, and that the result of such a discovery is the seed to understanding why we’re alive in this world.

There is a plethora of relevant, important minutiae we have the capacity to learn in this lifetime; such as how to change the tires on our car, how not to stain or shrink clothes in the laundry; how to balance a checkbook, maintain an interesting, engaging conversation with another person—but none other is more important or more intrinsically pivotal than our understanding of love. Without this, we will find (inevitably, whether sooner or later) the rest of our knowledge intake has significantly less importance in the bigger picture of life.

Love is the “party” of life; not the things inside the delusion of earth as our final destination, where we each try to use “things” (sex, drugs, alcohol, food, work, etc.) to fill in the void of pain. But we can only acknowledge such a truth as this when and if we finally admit the nature of our deepest pain. It is bearing witness to the scar-covered wounds we’ve tried and failed to heal with the distraction of ignorance (rather than finding ourselves welcomed into vulnerability with a trusted and loyal friend), and seeking the forgiveness of someone we’ve hurt (or giving the forgiveness to the one who hurt us) that exposes the darkness of our pain with the light of God’s grace, inviting us to receive the gift of a fuller, richer life in Christ.

Love permeates through the spirit of God through Jesus Christ, or it lies flat in its own grave of obscurity through the blindness of the uncurious human mind. We either open our hearts to receive this Truth stemming from outside of ourselves, or every single lesson we could ever learn only points back to the lifelessness of solipsism; believing life only matters because we are in it. Life itself would remain an ambiguous question without answer, ultimately leading the human mind to suffer from self-inflation (i.e. all of life is about ‘me’ in order for it to be entertaining and therefore bearable), or self-implosion (degradation of the mind+heart and failure of the desire to grow or continue to exist, leading to depression and/or other worse maladies). Without understanding love and continuing to understand our understanding of it, we are like a balloon unsure of whether or explode or implode into airless, breathless beings without reason to remain intact. My prayer for each of us is that we will continue to seek Jesus above all else, accept (by coming to understand by the grace of God) the love He generously bestows through the Holy Spirit, and live according to His statues and commands (Deuteronomy 6:1 and 1 Kings 2:3). This will indubitably lead to us a fuller life, if not without the humbled smile derived from a life of delayed gratification in the wait for a better world with a perfect King.

16x9-page-prop-sta14-nominees-ss

The Beautiful Rebellion – Mara, although she hasn’t written in a while, has phenomenal posts about such sentimental and engaging subjects, and her delivery is both personal and tangible. I love reading her posts as she has an amazing eye for what matters and the heart to help us to see why.

theclippedbutterfly – Ann writes short and sweet or short and moving/powerful, and I love this about her posts. They are beautiful, sometimes poignant in a meaningful way, and they are always engaging. Ann, bless you as you continue to seek God as He works in your writing!

pennyforyourthotsblog – Penny is always simple but profound, making simplistic points about complex subjects and delivering the message in a way that is as easy to follow as it is honest and real. God bless you as you continue to let the world see the gold that you have to offer, Penny!
Shattered in Him –  JD writes incredible articles about hard topics and her words land powerfully because they are authentic and based in a reality one cannot ignore. I love reading what she has to say and I look forward to reading more from her.
Nickel Boy Graphics – I love this writer’s ability to capture a story within pictures and then explicate the message with some down-to-earth yet complex studies of Christianity and faith. I encourage you to check out his site and see his work for yourself!
First and Second Blog – Bethany has beautiful words which accompany her amazing faith in Jesus, and I find this both inspiring and uplifting. I heavily encourage you to check out her site and experience this for yourself. She is a blessing to the blogging world and I’m grateful to have found her site.
Imagineateweb – Sparsha is poetic and visual with her posts; they are engaging on a level that I really enjoy and respect as a writer. I think she has an amazing gift and I do hope God continues to bless her with the ability to write such moving posts! They are a joy to read.
A Writer’s Reflections – Heather is an incredible writer with some very interesting things to say. I heavily enjoy reading her posts and getting to know her mind more. She’s gifted and filled with the treasure of knowledge. Check out her site and enjoy what she has to offer!
Joseph George – Joseph has really entertaining, thought-provoking videos combining elements of Christianity with the message of recent movies. I love hearing his perspective and I find his points of view refreshing. I do hope he continues to generate these posts which give the world something new to consider.
There are so many writers in this blogging world which deserve credit and I truly hope you will check out the websites above to experience the treasure of their gifts. We each have something to offer, and I hope others will be willing to experience these unique, raw talents.
Kristen, thank you so much for nominating me! I’m truly humbled that you considered me, and I’m just in awe of how God moves through us and speaks to us through others. Moving forward, may God bless each of us as we continue to seek the answers to the questions which matter most, and may we desperately seek to let go of ourselves in order that we would find God instead. In Jesus’s holy name.
If you’d like to read more of my article, you can find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.
May God bless you all!
Lance Price Blog 2017

Triumph

Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

LUDICROUSNESS OF FAITH

Humility is one of the main attributes of Christianity, one which gives the believer the ability to swallow their insignificance in this vast universe, while simultaneously drawing courage and purpose from the Spirit who spoke the universe into existence. Humility also changes the way we receive the Word of God: Learning of Jesus from the Bible either draws solid faith into the absence of hope, or its extreme claims become the items of religious caricature. Put differently, when people hear of Jesus, they either take Him seriously, or their shock in light of His story forces their logic to consume the lies of the world to make sense of what appears to be the ludicrousness of faith. 

 CHRISTIANITY AND NICENESS

One word in the English language which seems overused in describing the Christian character is “nice.” In this article, I would like to explicate the value of Christianity and its influence on the attitude of the believer, as well as why this should not be confused or mistaken with the correlation of faith. While niceness is a positive attribute, it does not add any measure of extraordinary depth to Christianity; rather, Christianity interjects authenticity into the character of niceness—insofar that our attitude isn’t a mirror of self-merit, but a reflection of the light of faith within. Let me explain.

TRANSCENDENT JOY

Receiving good news from a friend often brings momentary periods of joy through the conduit of empathy; however, this sensation lacks the effervescent joy we can find in Christ since earthly joy does not transcend reality. Furthermore, if we are to consider the notion of realities, we would be wise to also consider the way earthly joy inevitably foreshadows something rare and ecstatic: The high hope of a better world without pain or death or tears—Heaven. Sadly, the doubt of disbelief cloaks the mind and obscures this hope under the rigidity of logic. 

In this light, we can recognize how each of our ephemeral circumstances, whether or not they stimulate joy—are not transcendent of life’s circumstances, and therefore they do not inspire us to have hope beyond this moment. While happiness is as transient as joy is steadfast, earthly joy is like happiness in that it does not gain momentum from any eternality; only faith in Jesus commands the interior walls of belief to leap into the ‘beyond’ from limitation, revealing a more splendent joy as connected to our spirit. 

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Our spirit, once faith has been embraced through grace, no longer witnesses the self without first gazing through the love and provision of Christ. While we still desire pleasure and comfort, this short-sighted viewpoint is overseen by the wisdom of trusting in Jesus. Being encompassed by faith reinstates through the spirit our deeper and more intrinsic desire for a purposeful eternity: Hope in Christ not only answers our search and desire for this, it also heals the broken pieces of who we are from the wake of the destruction of our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

THE “SMILE” OF NICENESS THROUGH FAITH

In this way, the joy of a Christian stems from their faith, not through an act they’ve carried out or a mood they’re in. Because of this, the expression of joyfulness, which is sometimes mistaken as its own entity—is more or less described as “nice,” in the sense that joy is commonly expressed through a smile and cheeriness. I love to smile at people because I know a genuine smile communicates an effective and positive message, but it isn’t to say, “I’m smiling because I’m Christian!” This reasoning would be so spiritually forced as to be histrionic. If belief in Jesus means, “We smile because we’re Christian,” then faith is simply an act of the will while hope is a mood enhancer. But this isn’t true. Faith in Jesus is rooted in the soul, where desire for meaning and purpose can only be satisfied and fulfilled by the living essence of the transcendent (namely, the Holy Spirit). Why is that? Because we were created by a God who lives outside of the ephemeralness of time and space and sin, and it is to His home to which we are invited.

NOT AN ACT OF THE WILL 

Why is it important for people to understand why niceness needn’t be directly attributed to faith in Christ? The reason is this: If we say we’re smiling because we’re Christian, then we give glory to religion rather than the Lord. In other words, we’re saying, “I’m joyful because I am a Christian,” rather than, “I am joyful because I live in the hope of Jesus Christ.” When we give credit to the belief, we redirect the mind to the act of the will (performance-based religion) rather than the gift from God (grace, and an intimate, personal relationship). In doing this, we give the impression that in order to be Christian, one must smile and “act” nice. This is precisely the fallacy which must be eradicated from the spiritual conversation and effaced from our hearts if we are to understand—and be transformed by—the authenticity of the spirit of Christianity.

EFFECTING THE SPIRIT

To be clear, niceness is not the thought pattern by which a believer operates; rather, faith is the conduit through which we breathe, desire, and move. If it is not through faith, then it is through selfishness/narcissism. Faith is not chosen, it is received through God’s gift of grace. The attitude and character of the reborn spirit are not circumstantial or ephemeral, but influenced by an eternality far beyond that of any association with the body or mind. Simply put, the Holy Spirit does not require our body to work properly in order for its power to be efficient; the Holy Spirit works through the spirit, not the flesh.

Transcendent joy is our new mentality and perspective, our very lifestyle, in fact—not merely a circumstantial event caused by external factors. From this, what we can take away is that niceness is only a single, minute facet of the natural response of our spirit to transcendent joy, not nearly an act of false banality derived of faith in Jesus. 

AN AUTHENTIC SMILE OF HOPE

When others see me smile, they tell me that it is genuine and authentic, and that is true. I do not smile because I’m Christian—I smile because I have hope for a life beyond this world. Another hope of mine is that others will find my smile contagious and grow curious. I’m always open to strangers asking me if I’m Christian (which has happened several times), because I’m always hoping they’ll see that there’s more behind this smile than the excuse of niceness. There is a Truth and a promise that we’re called to receive, and in receiving it, the consequent joy is invigorating to the extent that a smile (niceness) is merely a small courtesy of expression; an external indication, more or less, of such a gift received in the soul deep inside.

JOYFUL INTENTION

While I have emphasized at length the significance of a smile, this is obviously not the only expression of joy (and happiness/niceness), but one of many. My intent here was to use the smile as an example which others commonly recognize. Furthermore, I have witnessed churchgoers whose smile/attitude disintegrates as soon as their face turns a few degrees from mine, which comes across as incredibly forced. This is not authenticity as its best, for it is the absence of grace at work. Niceness is not only unnecessary with regards to those who believe niceness is solely an attitude associated with Christianity; many times it also has the power to propitiate the fallacy that faith in Christ enforces a fake persona in order to pursue. Quite oppositely, receiving Jesus begins at a much deeper level of the spirit, where niceness is merely a constituent of a much larger whole: JOY. Christians do not have to smile, but we do because we find hope and joy in Jesus.

In the late, respected words of St. Francis of Assisi: 

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

My point and message is not that we become silent Christ-followers, but to point out how our actions speak loudly—especially to unbelievers when our actions contradict the words of our mouthes. Christian joy builds the desire to be more generous with our time; the openness even to being silent with those who are suffering and merely seeking the presence of someone who cares. These are expressions which we, as Christ-followers, have joyful reason to believe beyond the fallacy of coerced spiritual niceness, are the moments which matter most. 

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